Holistic Ways to Manage Postpartum Depression
“What are your tips/experience managing postpartum depression?”
I can certainly speak to the issue of postpartum depression and how to manage this trying time in the lives of some mothers. After the birth of our seventh baby, thirty years ago, I experienced something way more than just the “baby blues”. My midwife had some good suggestions, one of which was to treat it with progesterone. This medication did help, but I noticed that it caused my milk supply to drop so I stopped using it and turned to these other ways to manage my postpartum depression.
Respect the nesting-in period
Many cultures have a set time for new mothers to set aside day-to-day concerns and be cared for by the support system. Bring this concept to your situation: allow yourself to be pampered for the first few weeks. Meals and cleaning and caring for other children must be turned over to friends and family. You should not be expected to “do it all” – use your energy to recover.
Stick to priorities
Remind yourself you are doing the most important job in the world – mothering a new human being – on days when you feel you aren’t getting anything done. Your priority right now is taking care of yourself and your baby. Remember, the constant-baby-care stage doesn’t last forever.
Get out – get moving!
Wear your baby in a baby sling or carrier and take long walks outdoors, stopping now and then, letting the peace of nature speak to you. Try for one hour in the morning and then again for another hour later in the afternoon. Fast walking will lull Baby and help you work off stress.
Get some “group therapy” and possibly actual therapy
The traditional model has never been a mother alone in the home with a baby. It has always been mothers with babies sharing their joys and problems with one another. Find a La Leche League meeting, childbirth class postpartum group, new mommy exercise classes, a faith-based moms’ group, friends to hang out with. You may also want to talk with a professional counsellor who specializes in postpartum issues or who has group counseling.
Depression causes a lack of appetite or creates cravings for junk food, and poor nutrition feeds more depression. Devotion to balanced nutrition must be your routine. Have healthy options easy to grab when you don’t have time or the interest to prepare food from scratch. Brainstorm this with your spouse and get help from friends if you need help feeding yourself. Fish oils supplements (at least 1000 mg daily) are prescribed by healthcare professionals and have been shown in studies to work just as well or better than antidepressants.
Small acts of self-care are apt to help you feel good. Invest in a simple hairstyle to get you through the early months.
Treat yourself with small acts of self-care
You deserve to be cared for, too, not just baby. Small acts of self-care are apt to help you feel good. Invest in a simple hairstyle to get you through the early months.
Treat yourself – get a facial, a massage, an hour at the spa, along with daily showering and resting, or a soak in the tub. This is just good medicine for your body and your mind. If you are thinking to yourself “but I don’t have the time”, remind yourself often: what your baby needs most is a happy, healthy mother.
Meditation is soul-care
Be aware of your breathing as you go through your day: slow, steady inhales and exhales. Read something uplifting and/or funny. Make a gratitude list. Take up an artistic project such as crochet or adult coloring book to channel your anxious energy and settle your mind.
Written By: Martha Sears, RN
Martha is the mother of Dr. Bill’s eight children, a registered nurse, a former childbirth educator, a La Leche League leader, and a lactation consultant. Martha is the co-author of 25 parenting books and is a popular lecturer and media guest drawing on her 18 years of breastfeeding experience with her eight children (including Stephen with Down Syndrome and Lauren, her adopted daughter). Martha speaks frequently at national parenting conferences and is noted for her advice on how to handle the most common problems facing today’s mothers with their changing lifestyles. Martha is able to connect with both full-time, stay-at-home mothers and working mothers because she herself has experienced both styles of parenting. Martha takes great pride in referring to herself as a “professional mother” and one of her favorite quips when someone voices their concern about her having eight children in an already populated world is: “The world needs my children.”